Never has getting together for lunch felt so good.
TODAY's Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, Craig Melvin and Carson Daly recently had lunch together at New York's Fresco by Scotto to discuss how life has been over the last 12 months — one year after the quintet sat down during a socially distanced get-together in a backyard in upstate New York after months of working remotely.
“To being together with no masks!” Savannah told the group during a toast, a nod to how they have all gotten vaccinated.
In May, the crew started to get closer after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, in most instances. That’s when Savannah and Hoda resumed sitting near each other on TODAY.
“And all of the sudden, once we started moving closer, we were like, 'Look at us. We're on top of each other,’" Hoda said.
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“Folks were sweating and dancing and singing and hugging,” he said.
“Everybody was vaccinated,” Al said. “And having you guys there meant the world. It was like a coming-out party, and it was really terrific.”
The team couldn’t help but marvel at how things have changed, noting how few people were near a normally bustling Studio 1A.
“There was a time when it was just you and our camera operator Mason — and no one else,” Savannah told Hoda.
“But fast forward to now, you guys. We look outside. Coldplay was on the plaza,” Hoda said, referring to the band’s live appearance on the show last month.
“I don't think we'll take these things for granted anymore, seeing people who come to the plaza, or having music out there,” Savannah added, while paying tribute to all the people behind the scenes who make TODAY come to life.
While the pandemic created many hardships, it did bring about some sweet moments. Hoda said she misses seeing Savannah’s children, Vale and Charley.
“Watching them pop up, literally, it was like so calming, and it felt so at home,” Hoda said.
“Calming for you,” Savannah joked.
They weren’t the only kids who made names for themselves, either. Carson’s son, Jack, became the de facto graphics department.
“Jack needs an agent. We get stopped now, and people are like, ‘Yo, you're the kid that holds the sign,’” Carson said about his son's newfound fame from assisting on the show during PopStart.
Carson also said while he enjoyed finally getting to return to the studio, it came at a surprising price.
“It felt great. I don't know about you guys, but I started to harbor a little bit of guilt,” he said. “I love my kids so much, and I felt bad because it came at the cost of a pandemic with people losing their lives. I was so selfishly happy to be home with my kids because I travel so much.”
Craig said his kids, Delano and Sybil, helped remind him of the gravity of the pandemic after Del wrote a letter to help him stay in touch with his emotions.
“It said, 'Dear blah, blah, blah, please make the pandemic go away. Please have people stop dying. Please have people stop getting sick.’ And just, you know, puddles,” he said, referring to crying.
The TODAY family also opened up about how COVID-19 affected their own families. Craig said wife Lindsay Czarniak had to be sequestered in a room after she got the coronavirus, and Carson said wife Siri received a false positive.
Hoda also noticed how her kids, Haley and Hope, quickly became so familiar with masks.
“It's just so funny now how they look back at pictures and wonder why we didn't have a mask on before,” she said. “We still worry about our kids. They're not vaccinated. They're little and they're running around, but Haley got so used to it and now we leave and she's like, ‘Mom, do you have your phone? Do you have a mask?’"
“It's incredible how they roll with it,” Savannah said. “They get used to the mask. The day the CDC said if you're vaccinated, you don't have to wear the mask outdoors, I picked up Vale at the bus stop with no mask. She comes down, the bus stops with her mask, and she's like, ‘Mom, where's your mask? Put it on.’”
While the world may not have completely returned to normal, Al said the signs are there.
“I think everybody's coming out and just feeling good,” he said. “Look, we've come through something. We're still going through it, but, by god, thanks to a whole lotta people, we're able to live like America.”
“I mean, talk about appreciating things you never even thought twice about in your life, like walking to the store with your kid without a mask on, or going to the beach or getting in the car — getting on a plane,” Hoda said.